Report: How Prabhakar Raghavan Killed Google Search

Apr 25, 2024 - 7:41 am 39 by
Filed Under Google

Bloody Google Logo

Ed Zitron wrote a piece named The Man Who Killed Google Search. It goes through in detail how Prabhakar Raghavan, Google's former head of ads - led a coup so that he could run Google Search, and how an email chain from 2019 began a cascade of events that would lead to him running it into the ground, he said.

Everyone in the SEO/SEM space is talking about this article and I came back to the SEO on fire. If you have not read it yet, you should.

Update: I added Google's statements to this below:

I'll include some posts from Ed Zitron:

Here are some of the many posts from our industry on this:

And a lot more, see over here.

There is also a lot of good commentary, even from former Googlers, at HackerNews.

I am still digging out after two days, so I apologize not digging in more...

Forum discussion at X and HackerNews.

Update: Google sent me the following statements in response to this:

(1) On the March 2019 core update claim in the piece: This is baseless speculation. The March 2019 core update was designed to improve the quality of our search results, as all core updates are designed to do. It is incorrect to say it rolled back our quality or our anti-spam protections, which we've developed over many years and continue to improve upon.

(2) As we have stated definitively: the organic results you see in Search are not affected by our ads systems.

- Relevant testimony from the DOJ trial that puts these misleading claims into context:

From Ben Gomes’ testimony:

  • “From my perspective, queries had always been a tricky way to measure growth, because there are changes you can make that actually reduce the number of queries but are good for users. So I never liked the notion of pure queries as a growth metric, but we also needed to agree on, like, what was the right growth metric. And so this was a discussion about exactly what could be a good metric."
  • "I think this metric of using just queries is not one that optimizes appropriately... Ads also wants users for the long run, they also want long term business."
  • "We were putting a significant effort into ideas that we thought would increase the amount -- satisfy more user needs and increase the amount of usage we had in search. Those two things are not necessarily at odds."
  • "We have no way of growing queries directly unless we do a better job with search."
  • "I was proposing things we would never do, like turning off spell correction. I could never imagine us doing that."

From Jerry Dischler’s testimony:

Q: Do agree that the search team and the ads team are working together to accelerate monetization velocity, correct?

A: “The ads team would be accelerating monetization velocity. The search team is only accelerating monetization velocity to the extent that they tell the ads team about what new research they’re building.”

Q: …by "church and state separation," can you just further describe what that means? A: “What I mean is that the organic team does not take data from the ads team in order to affect its ranking and affect its result. The organic team operates independently.”

Update: Here is the response from Ed Zitron, he wrote in part:

Google can play semantics all it wants, but if changes were made to an algorithm that increased traffic to previously-suppressed sites, how does one interpret these changes as anything other than a rollback, especially when these sites were suppressed in previous updates?

See the full response over here:


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